Monday, October 22, 2012

damp days of october

i did not enjoy biking in the rain this morning.  i forgot my gloves, the weather unexpectedly colder than yesterday.  the back light on my bicycle has disappeared.  my breaks need to be replaced.  i wouldn’t describe the rain this morning as hard, but steady and persistent would be excellent adjectives.  the morning dark, i had forgotten that in the winter i wake for work with night still hanging over the city.

friday, however, i revelled in the rainy pedal home from work, when i left the office: high hopes, high spirits, excited about my plans for the weekend.  the rain seemed light as i began biking north from john’s landing.  the weather seemed pleasant despite the chill of the showers.  the frequency of the raindrops increased as i passed through the south waterfront.  the wind forced the tiny splatters on the concrete into shifting patterns, lines formed by continuous drops snaked across the road.  travelling up the west bank esplanade it began pouring, but enjoying the ride i decided not to stop and take the train home.  the only other person out in the rain was a committed runner: shirtless, muscular, pushing a baby stroller, and though i, too, braved the rain, i did not feel half as fierce.  he must be a true oregonian.

when i made it home to north portland, i found myself pretty wet despite my rain suit, but invigorated, happy.  i walked down to amnesia to meet john, mikiel, and zebra.
during the commute from work, i remembered my first experience with the oregon rains four years ago. i remember october that year as painfully wet. the rain never-ending, knee high pools of water formed where leaves had piled up over sewer drains. i felt constantly damp, constantly cold, never comfortable.

i had started dating a man almost immediately upon moving to portland. he and his friends seemed indoctrinated to the wet atmosphere, accepting. this guy took me at the beginning of november as his date to his friends' wedding held at cannon beach. a large group of us carpooled from portland to the coast where we rented a house on the beach. gloomy, gray, wet, rocky, i'd never seeen the coast out here before and found myself fascinated, loved the starkness, dark but beautfiul. the wedding ceremony took place the next afternoon with a large reception afteward in a community center at the town square. late that night, with the even wrapping up, my date and four of his friends took the last few bottles of champage and walked the two miles down the beach back to the house in which we stayed. sprinkling, cold, the sand wet, the night pitch black, all i could do was take off my shoes and merrily march with the rest, singing, laughing, taking swigs of champage. at some point to live in the pacific northwest you have to learn to stoppy worrying and love the rain.

last friday night, i found myself at a party in southeast for the members of magic mouth (and boeke), the band having just returned from a month long tour across the country. the gathering spilled out of the house as friends went out to smoke. pouring we crammed in onto the porch, but as it let up, just sprinkling, we trickled out onto the sidewalk, not minding the rain too much, not minding our hair getting a little wet. my date to the party, new to the city, turned to me and said, "everyone here is wearing boots." i looked down at his own shoes and thought that soon enough he would understand his canvas shoes would not cut it in our rainy climate.

the rain here will not bother me until may. i find the cloudy skies then hardest to accept. the basil ganglia in my brain still accept the reward of spring sunlight and warmer days. but even if i can never accept the clouds that last until july, at least the clouds here both me less than they did when i first moved to portland. i no longer obsessively carry a raincoat with me everywhere.

Friday, October 12, 2012

waking over and over

we've seen a late, dry summer here in portland.  i think i heard it reported that last month had been the driest september in oregon in sixty years.  two weekends ago, i biked to a cafe in northwest portland to meet an old friend who had just moved from birmingham to portland, almost exactly four years after i made the same transition.  the bike ride had been pleasant, the weather temperate, but as we sat on the sidewalk by the cafe, the sun blinded me, seemingly unseasonably hot as perspired and drank iced coffee.

lee is great to have around, great to spend hours with talking about everything.  she's literary-minded, extremely intelligent, can joke and keep up, and always teaches me something new.  lee is also one of the few people i know, maybe the only person i know, who has also read all six volume of marcel's proust's in search of lost time.  lee and i briefly made some jokes about the book that afternoon, talked about it a little, and though i found myself sweating that afternoon, i always associate proust's very, very, very long novel with the fall.  when the nights grow chilly and apples can be found everything and pumpkins and gourds sit out i find myself lost in thought, reminscing, remembering.  memories conjures themselves from the basement of my memory.  i do not know what it is about the season: the cold, the smoke from chimneys, the rain.  i always find myself nostalgic, remembering, and thinking about memory.

proust pursues the power of rememberance in his long novel.  his narrator is haunted by memory, constantly reflecting upon how some tea or a cookie, a dinner party, or a lover remembered shapes, influences, and distorts one's experience of any other dinner party or woman, sometimes to one's detriment.  the narrator's experiences in youth with gilberte and the beginning of his romance with albertine determine the rest of his relationship and obsession with albertine to the point at which the narrator looses love for her, tortures her, and cannot let her leave.

at the very beginning of swan's way, proust's narrator finds himself drowsing and waking over and over, each time waking in a different bed, a different time, living a different memory.  and i, too, am haunted by the spectre of the bed.  a bed, two pillows, a nightstand to either side with lamps and reading materials: this came to represent for me as a young adult the promise and comfort of companionship, of a boyfriend, a lasting relationship.  i would say i've grown up, my thoughts relationships and marriage and sex have changed, but that image of the bed and the associations with love and companionship i've made continue to affect me.

some of happiest, most affecting memories were formed in bed.  as proust's narrator measures his relationship by the memory of gilberte and albertine, i measure my happiness with other men through the prism of the past.

over a decade ago, i woke one morning crammed in my bed with three friends from school.  to either side were liz and ali; my boyfriend jeremy underneath me.  at some point in the night as we slept, jeremy had pulled me on top of him since there was hardly room for the four of us in my double bed.  i woke with hi literally holding me on top of him, our faces together, the morning light softly illuminating his limp, sleeping features.  and at sixteen i thought that this what happiness and love was supposed to feel like.

some of the happiest days i've ever known were years ago, after college but before i had moved to portland.  that year i dated a man who also had a birthday in febrary so i hosted a party for us in our apartment.  in the morning, we woke to music coming in from the living room where friends of ours had crashed after the party.  st. vincent, her first album, new then, and it sounded beautiful and strange and perfect that morning.  drew woke up so many mornings with me in that apartment that spring.  one chilly morning, he woke me to tell me it was snowing, the light from the window dim, but the white of the soft snow bright as it slowly and silently drifted past our view.  mornings like this i would put my head on drew's chest where a strange anamoly in his bone structure causes the rib cage to grow out concavely.  i would feel his course chest hair under my ear and hear his heart gently marking off the seconds.

late one evening last week, engaged with a young man in my bed, i discovered by mistake on the man's body an unexpectedly ticklish area.  when we woke the next morning, i kissed this man on his lips, the side of his neck, a nipple, his navel, all the way down under his testicles, kissing him then rubbing my beard gently against the soft skin of his scrotum.  he shuddered, ticklish, smiled at me.  we spent the morning joking with each other; shared breakfast together.  a beautfiul morning, i could wonder if this moment with this man, this memory will reverberate through the years, shaping my perspective on happiness and sex and men and mornings and dating.  there's no way to tell, though; these things are unpredictable.  the webs of memory created in my brain are complex and beyond my conscious control, and this guy may just become a forgotten fling.

in the fall, the triggers for my nostalgia come unbidden and unexpectedly and all one can do is remember and relax.  this morning the rain started falling again in portland.  inevitable like my memories.  and i wonder how the constant percussion will not make me go crazy, the insistent sound and wet.  but it's fall and now and somehow we always make it through to spring.  but at least now there will be hours to spend with lee in cozy cafes talking of proust and the fall and our memories.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

a few notes on the first presidential debate, 2012

over the past week we've heard a lot about obama's performance at the first presidential debate and mitt romney's surprising and supposed victory. tonight the nation will watch ryan paul talk against vice president biden, two men who often put their foots in their mouths. so before we watch what could be a great disaster, i thought i'd share some thoughts i had about the presidential debate we watched last week.

last week in denver, colorado president obama met republican presidential candidate mitt romney to spend an hour and a half setting up distinctions between their politics. i watched the debate from portland, oregon with john and mikiel, relaxing on john's couch. after the debate pundits, both democrat and republican, declared for romney a win after this first face-off. i had commented to mikiel that romney's dialogue seemed bullish; that it made him seem strong, confident. mikiel thought americans must see that romney is bellicose, bullying. obama's speech seemed slow, sputtering whereas romney talked away at a quick, aggressive clip. romney faced his opponent most of the time, addressed obama directly; obama looked to jim lehrer, the moderator, or to the audience watching on their televisions. obama was subquently criticized as being too professorial.

the dials showed that romeny's performance during the the debate helped dial down worries from undecided or undeclared voters that romney seemed out of touch with the concerns of average americans. however, though obama's rejoinders seemed sluggish or absent, hopefully the commonsense obama promoted made it through, seemed clear to american listeners. romney can repeat all he likes that he does not want to add to the deficit no does he want to raise taxes, but he does want to lower the tax rate on businesses and close tax loopholes and deductions manipulated by the wealthy. obama is exactly right in countering that even if the wealthy pay more taxes should the tax code be strengthened, if revenue is lost from business and defense spending remains high, how can not either the deficit or taxes on the average american household increase? intuitively, romney's vague proposals do not seem to balance, and economists (contrary to what romney insists) criticize the romney/ryan plan as idealistic, vague, and ineffectual.

if mitt romney is confused about savings from his tax and budget proposals and his healthcare plan for those with pre-existing conditions, obama seems not to have a concrete plan for promoting employment and the creation of jobs in this country. he harps on the revival of the auto industry, but those results are not seen nationwide and the tend there may still be short lived. the president talked about encouraging and strengthening education, but did not concretely explain the correlation between education and combating massive unemployment. obama, like morst democrat politicians, tends to demure from fully endorsing keynsian government expansion to encourage job creation and economic growth. the american people love to believe that the american government's budget should be treated like a household budget; it's hard to see how much more intricate a national budget and an economy are. money is not just spent by the government; the effects of any expedinture cannot be just counted against revenue. romney was right to imply that government spending can create a trickle down effect. but the difference between money flowing outward from a central government and money trickling down from big buisness is profit. the government does not have to make a profit; it feels no pressure from its shareholders. the governments objective is not to create profit for its owners but to aid the country at large. and as we know, greater profit and income does not usually trickle down; it is accumulated, kept, saved. it does not circulate. it is not spent or reinvested.

there might be more discussion on the economy tonight as paul ryan is known for being a budget wonk. though no matter where the discussion turns, no matter how substance-less you could say any of these debates will be, this vice presidential debate could at least be more entertaining than the last. john fell asleep right in the middle of the romney/obama scrap, snoring softly over their posturing.